Tuesday, November 15, 2005

a different lifetime...

on the third tuesday of every month, i record the minutes of a meeting that begins at 7:00 a.m. because of the ungodly start time, i must arrive at my office by 6:45 a.m. to ensure that coffee is brewed for the attendees. making the coffee this morning sent my mind reeling back 20 years to a brief period when i worked two jobs. i was desperate to move out of my grandparents' home. they were kind and enormously generous, but i was no longer capable of living with "elders" and felt an itch in my lungs each time they asked me when i'd be home or with whom i'd be.

one of the jobs i worked was for the now defunct (at least, i think it's defunct) ye olde potato chip factory. there was a small store front in the then newly remodeled union station and i had to wear a bright yellow pinafore and yell, "hot homemade chips" for 5 hours every afternoon. it was a fine job and at the end of the evening i got to take home leftover potato chips. believe me, the allure of that bonus system quickly wore off.

the other job i worked was on the early morning shift at mcdonald's. i arrived at 5:00 a.m. after the biscuit lady, but before the pancake maker. i was the counter girl. i took your order for egg mcmuffins and hash browns. i also had to make sure there was hot coffee at all times. the lane behind the counter was narrow. you really only had to take a half a step to reach the sandwich shoot where the biscuits and muffins waited for the next guest. periodically throughout the morning the drive-through guy would run a wet mop up over the tile floor behind the counter. that meant that the grease on the floor, mixed with the soapy water from the bucket mixed to create a recipe for slip and fall disaster. in my short tenure at the mcdonald's on south kingshighway i fell more times than i can remember and i fell holding a coffee pot on at least five occasions. i think it was after the 4th coffee pot explosion that the management decided i was not counter help material. the next morning i was placed on griddle duty.

my new responsibility was to make rounds of bacon and sausage patties. i wielded 3 foot long griddle presses under which cooked the flattened breakfast meats. the presses were heavy...imagine 3 foot long cast iron skillets and you will have a pretty good idea of how heavy the presses were. sometimes i couldn't lift them up to move them to another location on the grill, so i would slide them. one morning i slid one press toward another and a puddle of 400 degree pork grease erupted old faithful style onto my forearm. immediately, blisters began to form. i knew i was going to have to tell my manager.

he took me to the employee bathroom. above the toilet tank hung a medicine chest. from one of the shelves he took down a can of burn spray. he sprayed the now angry red raised blisters with a quick swipe of spray. his duties as nursemaid satisfied, he barked at me, "get back to your station!" i could feel the tears burning in my eyes. i knew that i was not cut out for this job. i knew i was not mcdonald's management material. i knew that i would not be back the next morning.

so this morning, wielding a coffee pot in the employee kitchen, i wondered how far in the future i would have to be to look back on this job and chuckle. how long before my manager figures out i am not legal assistant material?


firstborn studio said...

character building
experiences..memorable,painful and valuable!

Becky said...

you are not alone. i would like to tell you about my short tenure at big top in new haven, connecticut. i had to wear a read and white striped (vertical, thank g-d!)jacket for my counter job. when things got really busy on, say, a fri or sat nite and i could not keep up, they would stick me in the back to "bag clams." one of the house specialties was fried clams and i had to go back there and weigh out a certain amount and bag 'em up for the fry cook. i won't write what they felt like...but it was disgusting. and at the end of each nite the ltlle space in between the sole and the heel of my desert boots would be filled with breading, grease and other fast food crap. my fave part of the job though was when people would come in and order everything "traveling, with the works" which meant that you had to wrap it all up for them to take it home. a zillion little containers of tartar sauce, etc... then you could see from the counter as they would walk out to their cars, open up all the bags, fire up their stereos and eat right there in the parking lot! traveling with the works, my ass! denise is partially correct, memorable- as i definitely remember it, sort of painful, but not sure how valuable...